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Macroevolution and the biological diversity of plants and herbivores

Summary: Macroevolution and the biological diversity
of plants and herbivores
Douglas J. Futuymaa,1
and Anurag A. Agrawalb
aDepartment of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5245; and bDepartments of Ecology and
Evolutionary Biology and Entomology, and Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-2701
Edited by Gene E. Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana­Champaign, Urbana, IL, and approved July 29, 2009 (received for review May 11, 2009)
Terrestrial biodiversity is dominated by plants and the herbivores that consume them, and they are one of the major conduits of en-
ergy flow up to higher trophic levels. Here, we address the processes that have generated the spectacular diversity of flowering
plants (>300,000 species) and insect herbivores (likely >1 million species). Long-standing macroevolutionary hypotheses have postu-
lated that reciprocal evolution of adaptations and subsequent bursts of speciation have given rise to much of this biodiversity. We
critically evaluate various predictions based on this coevolutionary theory. Phylogenetic reconstruction of ancestral states has re-
vealed evidence for escalation in the potency or variety of plant lineages' chemical defenses; however, escalation of defense has
been moderated by tradeoffs and alternative strategies (e.g., tolerance or defense by biotic agents). There is still surprisingly scant
evidence that novel defense traits reduce herbivory and that such evolutionary novelty spurs diversification. Consistent with the co-
evolutionary hypothesis, there is some evidence that diversification of herbivores has lagged behind, but has nevertheless been tem-
porally correlated with that of their host-plant clades, indicating colonization and radiation of insects on diversifying plants. How-
ever, there is still limited support for the role of host-plant shifts in insect diversification. Finally, a frontier area of research, and a
general conclusion of our review, is that community ecology and the long-term evolutionary history of plant and insect diversifica-
tion are inexorably intertwined.


Source: Agrawal, Anurag - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology & Entomollogy, Cornell University


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology